Ex-Labour minister Lord Watts takes aim at team Corbyn: 'When winning doesn’t matter'

Posted On: 
14th August 2016

Writing exclusively for PoliticsHome, ex-Parliamentary Labour Party chairman and former minister Lord Watts launches a scathing attack on Jeremy Corbyn and his top team.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn
Credit: 
PA Images

Up until this year I was a member of a serious left-of- centre political party whose focus was to win elections so that we could improve the lives of millions of ordinary people. It remains somewhat of a mystery to me how in such a short period of time we have been transformed in to a Moonie-like political sect.

It is over forty years since I joined the Labour party. As an active trade unionist I came to the same conclusions that my forefathers had done many years before; the best way of improving rights for ordinary people isn’t by protesting and demonstrating, but by actually taking control of government. That isn’t to say trade unions are no longer relevant, I believe that they are as important today as they ever were. However, the trade union movement clearly has limitations as to what it can achieve.

Trade unions and working people still need a political Party which will provide good public services and protect them from exploitation by unscrupulous employers and from unfettered market forces. The unions wanted to build a political party which could represent working people and which could transform our county by creating a welfare state and address issues such as poverty and inequality. The creators of the Labour Party knew that to achieve power they would have to build a mainstream political party which could appeal to a wide cross section of the electorate that shared some, if not all, of their progressive views.

The trade union movement realised that the party had to have policies that where practical, achievable and credible with the voters and which did not just appeal to its own membership. I understand and support the need more radical policies than we have pursued in the recent past. It is crucial that we do so if we are to deal with the growing inequality in our society and the impact of globalisation. However, I hope that members of the party who vote in the forthcoming leadership election will understand that we also need to be a party which seeks to win elections and not just be a party of permanent opposition.

The present leadership of the party, Momentum and other associated left wing groups appear to think that their own individual pious principles are more important than winning elections. I am angered by the fact that many of those who espouse such views appear to be from relatively affluent backgrounds and for whom the re-election of a right wing Conservative governments has little effect. Their principles come at little cost to themselves as they won’t be the ones who are unable to find reasonably paid jobs, have to constantly worry about job security or not know how they will make ends meet at the end of the working week.

Nobody illustrates this point better than Jeremy Corbyn’s right-hand man; Seumas Milne. Seumas is the son of the ex BBC Director General, he was educated at a school which costs over £30,000 a year, worked as the Guardian’s Associate Editor before taking his current role at a cost of £97,000 a year to the taxpayer. For people like Seumas losing elections are of little consequence.

I want a leader who can unite our party and who can turn us back in to being a serious political party that can win the next election.

Continuing to behave like a left wing sect that speaks only to a small number of its adoring fans is the road to electoral disaster. So I hope that before many Labour Party members vote in the selection of our leader, they will ask themselves a few important questions;

- Why do the vast majority of Labour MPs not support Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership?

- Why are so many of them so desperate to replace him with a more credible leader?

- Do they really believe the Momentum line that all those Labour MPs are right wing self-serving Blairites/careerists?

- Isn’t it the case that these Labour MPs are simply much more in touch with the majority of British voters than the present leadership?

- Is there any evidence whatsoever that Jeremy Corbyn is likely to be able to win a general election?

I believe that the simple fact is that most MPs are hard working men and women. They work hard on behalf of their constituents and speak to them on a daily basis while Jeremy seems to move from one organised rally to another. Those Labour MPs hear daily from their constituents that they think Jeremy isn’t a credible leader and that with him in charge there is no way Labour can win the next or any future general election. If anyone doubts that this is the case I would suggest they knock on few doors in their own towns and cities to ascertain what Labour supporters really think of our present leadership.

All of the opinion polls consistently show that Labour under Jeremy’s leadership is well behind a divisive and unpopular Conservative government. Why is this? Are Momentum correct in their assertion that it’s because Labour MPs are not giving Jeremy the backing that he deserves? Or could it be that both the MPs and the general public have seen him demonstrate that he is completely out of his depth  ince he was elected leader? I believe that the fact Jeremy spends nearly all of his time at rallies and controlled events rather than with ordinary voters, speaks volumes. I would appeal to Jeremy to stop wasting his time preaching to the converted as it seems to only serve his own growing ego and give him an even more distorted view of his own support. I would encourage Jeremy to instead take some time out and knock on the doors of ordinary marginal voter’s doors. I sincerely believe that if he did this he would soon learn what ordinary voters think of him as a Labour leader and future Prime Minister. 

In conclusion we need a new leader who can unite the party not divide it and who can reach out to the whole country and give us a reasonable chance of winning the next general election. Owen Smith is the palpably the only candidate who has any possibility of doing this.

Losing the next general election might not matter to a lot of Jeremy Corbyn supporters. However, I urge them to consider the effects it will have on millions of people who are aren’t as fortunate as themselves before they cast their vote.